Spiritual Direction– The Soul’s Remedy

Seeking spiritual direction is a sign of spiritual maturity. It is a sign that one has passed the age of spiritual milk, and ready for solid food (1 Cor. 3:2). Anyone who wants to live their baptism responsibly should make spiritual direction an intrinsic part of their lives. It is the soul’s medicine, and the best way to grow in holiness.

Here are a few reasons to consider spiritual direction:

We need a coach for the race. We are familiar with Olympic champions. They take reaching the top so seriously that they would never consider attempting it without a coach. St. John Paul II related how Jan Tyranowski, a simple clerk and tailor, helped him developed his interior life and thus gave him the tools to find his purpose in life. when he became a University chaplain, John Paul II recalled  how he used to go camping with the students. Through what he learned from Jan, he was able to coach them to unleash the masterpiece they are and how best to comport themselves as a result. we can become the person God wants us to be on our own.

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Anyone who is serious about holiness can relate to the words of St. Augustine in The Confessions: “I longed for the chance to devote myself wholly to you, but …my two wills are in conflict and they rob my soul of all concentration” (VIII, 5:10). This pilgrim journey is a tale of twisting and turning down the road to heaven. We lose momentum at times and need help nudging toward our destiny. Our best help lies in getting someone who knows the way well. As we labor in pain waiting for the fulfillment of our hope and the glorious coming of our savior (Rom. 8:22-23), the best way to ensure we are making progress is to have a spiritual guide to keep us fit.

We all have blind spots. We all have biases. Anyone who has tried to be truly honest with him- or herself knows how difficult that is. None of us sees ourselves as we truly are. Most often we think we are better than we actually are, although sometimes we sell ourselves short. There are times we even lie to ourselves. How do we discover ourselves as we truly are? Sunday homilies are helpful, but clearly insufficient when it comes to specifics. The confessional is not the place to deal with topics that takes great amount of time. Friends are often afraid to offend us. Spiritual directors can put the mirror before us and enable us to face reality. Seeing ourselves as we truly are opens the door to real spiritual growth.

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We are all wounded. GK. Chesterton captures well the reality of our lives in this world this way: “we’re all in one boat, and we’re all seasick.” The reality is we are all cracked and bruised and in need of repair. There are things in our past that hurt so deeply, we don’t even want to talk about them yet those are precisely what we need to talk about. Some things, of which we might not be aware, restrain our interior peace. Unless we allow the soothing touch of Christ to reach into our brokenness, we remain wounded. Only through regular spiritual direction can we recognize these wounds and be to heal.

How do we locate a good spiritual director? The same way we locate a good physician – we ask others. You can start by asking your pastor for recommendations. Pray to the Holy Spirit to lead you to one that fits your needs. Religious houses like seminaries, convents, or priories usually have qualified directors. Try to get a trained spiritual director, if possible. A learned, experienced, and holy priest is the ideal director. Even the saints have complained how difficult it is to find a suitable one, so persevere! In the meantime, get someone.

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WORK or LEISURE

In the beginning was work; work was with God; all things were made through it, and nothing was made without it. Work played a major role in creation. God worked for seven days, and before he took a break, he commissioned man to work to subdue the earth (Gen. 2:15). So in working, we are carrying out the very command of God. We are doing what God himself had done. When we work, we are being godlike because we are operating through the same mean that God had used to carry out his plan. So it is right and just that we work. Whereas the Greeks in the epic of Gilgamesh’s stories of creation depict creation as the result of conflicts between the gods, the book of Genesis describes creation as the plan of God achieved by means of work. Work then is not the result of our fallen nature; it is part of our intrinsic nature. We were made to work. Work precedes the fall, but the fall makes its fruit harder to get.trades

God not only worked, he also found delights in his work. He found his work beautiful and good (Gen. 1:31). He sees himself in his work. In the garden of paradise, work was seen as blessedness. It is a human need as much as prayer, food, beauty, and friendship are. God does not delight in laziness. When we survey the whole Bible, one pattern is unmistakable– He usually calls people who are hard at work. He called none of Jesse’s sons, but the busy David. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he was sent to lead the people out of Egypt. Amos was a shepherd.

Work is foundational to our makeup. Most retired people wish they could still be working if their health permitted. Those who are constantly working rarely get sick. People who work are happier and healthier. In struggling to discover our identity, once we start working, we ipso facto discover our gifts and abilities. It seems in God’s mind that we must not only work in order to make money, we must work to live life fully. Part of life is to work. That is manifested in the frustrations we experience when we are out of work, and the pleasure we enjoy when we success at it.NYSECROWD

All work is a calling from God. Work done with care deserves to be paid well. A person who bears in mind that his work is a calling and performs it in that spirit should not struggle to make ends meet. Unfortunately, we are too familiar with good citizens who perform their work with their very soul, and yet struggle economically. This is something that must be tackled with the greatest conviction.

WRITERWork also dignifies us. The dignity of work does not lie in the kind of work one performs; it resides in how much of ourselves we put in the work. A work well done is a service done to God and our neighbor. Approached from that perspective, work becomes a way to serve and exalt someone beyond ourselves. Work performed from that spirit will allow us to be more successful in the long run due to the quality of our work. So while keeping our eyes on the Transcendent, our personal needs are fulfilled. Work well done is a service done to ourselves and society. When each police officer, judge, and lawmaker puts their hearts and souls in their work, everyone is safer. When mayors, senators, representatives, presidents put their petty interest aside, the common good benefits.

However, our life must never be reduced to what we achieved through work (emphasis added). No matter how successful we are at our work, even if the work that we do is our vocation, it can never bring fulfillment and meaning to our lives. We were made to aim for greatness; nothing other than greatness satisfies us. There is a reason why God orders rest on the seventh day (Ex. 20:8). Josef Pieper calls rest leisure in his book entitled Leisure: the Basis of Culture. That deserves more attention. He argues that work should be pursued so that we may be at leisure. “We work in order to be at leisure”. What he means by leisure is interesting indeed. It is certainly not eating and drinking, going to the beach, or watching TV. It is not simply enjoying the company of good friend, reading a good book, or writing a blog post though it does not exclude those. Leisure is a condition of the soul. It is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion in the really real. He sees leisure as the attitude of someone who opens and lets himself go as if sleeping. Leisure is not idleness; it is the condition of considering thing in a celebrating spirit. That means peace, intensity of life, and contemplation at once.

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It only takes place and possible when man is in harmony with himself, the world, and its meaning. It is like the stillness in the conversation of lovers. Leisure as Pieper sees it is not a way to regain bodily strength and mental refreshment for further work though it does bring such benefits. The purpose of leisure is to keep us human. Deprived of leisure, work becomes a bare, hopeless effort resembling the labor of Sisyphus chained to his labor without rest and inner satisfaction.

Leisure gives us the power to step beyond the working world and win contact with the superhuman. It elevates us to a realm higher than work can. Leisure is the locus where the spiritual and bodily being that we are meet each other. It is the embrace of heaven and earth in us. It allows us to move beyond this cacophonous world of work and see that man cannot live as a mere functionary, but as a divine being.

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Celebration or festival is at the heart of leisure. All celebrations derive their source from experiencing and living out in harmony with the world. No one or nothing can be in harmony with or experience the world without being in harmony with God, the Creator of the world. Therefore, all celebrations, however remote that may be, give praise to God, claims Pieper. True worship occurs only within a religious framework. A simplified version of Pieper’s point is this: when man withdraws himself from his labor, he becomes harmonized with God. In so doing, he discovers that he is not simply a being made for work, but someone made above all to love, know, and worship God. That’s how we keep the being that we are from being a complete functionary consumed in the total world of work. Leisure is the rescuing of man from being considered an object of usefulness. Because man has dignity, he can never be evaluated according to his performance. Leisure enables him to live as he was meant to live from the beginning.

Unless leisure, we are slaves. For Ecclesiastes, if there were nothing beyond this life, the toil of man under the sun would be pointless. For some of the Greeks, work is demeaning. It is a barrier to the highest kind of life—the contemplative life. “We would reach the level of the gods if we can withdraw from the active life to consecrate ourselves solely to the contemplative”. For Aristotle, “only those who are incapable of the higher life should work”. Those views hold true only if man reduces himself to a pure worker. However, when work is seen as being coworkers of God, she work is viewed for what it is, man is capable to reach greatness and give glory to God.